This time last week things were looking up for Team New Zealand.

They had just been awarded the hosting rights for the America's Cup qualifiers in early 2017 (although official confirmation is still at least a week away as America's Cup officials iron out a few details with the Protocol). With the qualifying regatta in the bag, so too was government funding. After nearly 18 months of uncertainty and inactivity, things appeared to be finally moving forward.

Then came Wednesday. Hump day became major bump in the road day.

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Word that long-serving skipper Dean Barker was set to be replaced at the helm by young sailing star Peter Burling was leaked to Newstalk ZB, and suddenly any talk of America's Cup racing returning to Auckland and the potential economic benefits the city stood to gain from the event was swamped by a tidal wave of debate over the merits of the two yachtsmen.

Barker, who has been with Team NZ nearly 20 years, was left shell-shocked at the manner in which the news was leaked. At that point he was still in negotiations with the board over what his future role in the organisation will be.

Barker's relationship with chief executive Grant Dalton has steadily deteriorated since returning from that painful loss in San Francisco in 2013. In the wake of Barker's treatment last week, it now appears frayed to the point it is irreparable. Legal letters have been issued, threats have been made and Barker is said to be ready to walk away.

It all gives the impression of an organisation on the verge of implosion. And yet the only peep we've heard from Team NZ since news broke last Wednesday of a change at the helm is a two-line statement describing the reports which clearly originated from their own organisation as "inaccurate".

No one from the team has fronted up to clarify reports or explain how details of confidential contract negotiations were leaked to media.

It is staggering how a team whose very existence is reliant on public funding, a team who pitch themselves as "New Zealand's team", can be so utterly dismissive of the people they profess to represent.

The lack of transparency and accountability displayed over the last week is typical of how the team operate.

Hiding behind the cloak of "commercial sensitivities", Team NZ have never properly explained to the taxpayers where their money is spent. The promised public release of their findings from a so-called extensive review into the team's failings in San Francisco never eventuated. Best keep it in-house, they decided, wouldn't want our competitors finding out confidential details of our campaign.


But Team NZ are going to find it difficult to continue to keep what has been going on behind the walls of their Auckland compound in-house if Barker walks away. The popular yachtie is said to be determined to air his views on the team's leadership. If that happens it will be thoroughly damaging for the Team NZ brand and most likely make Dalton's position untenable.

You've got to wonder what Team NZ's funders, including the Government, make of all this in-fighting. The America's Cup is already a difficult sell to the New Zealand taxpayer and the Government will struggle to justify plunging more money into a team whose leadership is shaky at best.

As we've heard the team implore so many times before, without government funding Team NZ will have to close its doors.

Then there'll be plenty of people with a lot to say. But it will be too late.

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